Golden Knights owner Bill Foley might have let out a major secret Wednesday.
During his guest appearance on local radio station KSHP’s “Vegas Hockey Hotline,” Foley was asked about next season and facing defenseman Nate Schmidt, who was traded from the Knights to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.
Foley’s response raised several eyebrows north of the border, and probably in the NHL offices, too.
— Brian Blessing (@BrianBlessing) October 14, 2020
“Yeah, but they’re going to be playing in the Canadian division next year,” he said.
The NHL is targeting a Jan. 1 start, and commissioner Gary Bettman said he hopes to play an 82-game schedule. Foley told the Review-Journal he thinks the season will begin Feb. 1 and consist of 48 or 56 games to finish before the Summer Olympics that open in July.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley to @BrianBlessing on Vegas Hockey Hotline on facing Nate Schmidt/Canucks: "Yeah, but they're going to be in the Canadian division."
— David Schoen 📰🗞🏒 (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) October 14, 2020
But with the border between the U.S. and Canada closed to nonessential travel, the NHL must determine the best way to navigate that political issue.
Foley suggested that because of the surge in coronavirus cases in Canada, the NHL is considering having the seven Canadian teams play in a division.
That would leave the 24 teams based in the U.S. to play in separate geographic divisions.
“I don’t think that border is going to be open before Jan. 1, if it’s open Jan. 1,” Foley said. “They’re starting to lock down again. Winnipeg’s locking down. Quebec has got spikes going on. I think they’re going to be playing a Canadian division. I don’t think they’re going to be crossing the border.”
Foley’s comments created a huge stir in Canada, with fans and media dreaming about potential rivalries.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to the Review-Journal that the league is still in the preliminary stages of planning for next season and is not prepared to comment.
“If we aren’t playing in front of fans, I don’t know how a lot of teams can make it, including us,” Foley said. “We’re going to have to make a serious financial commitment to fund the team without playing in front of fans.
“I believe Gary Bettman is not going to be having us fly all around and play in empty arenas. It’s going to be another plan.”